Each time you go to a different country you are likely to encounter a different currency and trying to keep track of what you are spending or how much things cost in your own currency is often a struggle. That is certainly the case here in Bali where the currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. All transactions are made in cash in local currency and the constant use of credit cards we use at home that keeps our pockets empty of cash doesn’t exist here. That presents a calculation problem all the time.

Today the exchange rate is 13,187.48 Rupiah per dollar (Rp/USD). Since the exchange rate fluctuates daily we use 13,000 Rp/USD but even that causes a problem, after all there’s a bunch of zeros to deal with and besides 13 is a prime number. I never learned my 13 times table and there are no shortcuts when calculating in prime numbers so estimating is tough.

Let’s say renting a motorbike costs 75,000 Rp per day. How many dollars is that? (Well, by estimating let’s use 12,000 Rp/USD and that would make 72,000 Rp equal six bucks, so we’re in there some where; see you can work with 12 but 13 seems impossible.) Is a hotel at 500,000 per night a good deal? How about 1,200,000? That last one’s kind of easy; it’s about $100 (1.3 million Rp=$100 doesn’t it?). If you go away for the weekend how many rupiah do you stuff into your pockets? In fact, we are going over to Java soon for a couple weeks and will want to take cash with us so what part of Stephen’s pay should she ask for in Rp compared to dollars? We paid our way over here and got some of the reimbursement in rupiah after we arrived; that was about 15 million, a rather large pile of paper.

The largest bill is 100,000 Rp or about $7.70 so large transactions require lots of paper. Money is often sorted into bundles of one million rupiah. So what about coins? There are 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Rp coins. What is the dollar value of a 100 Rp coin? They must not think they are worth much since they are made of some metal that so lacks density I think is plastic but perhaps it’s aluminum.

And to further complicate things, they use the metric system (I know that’s kinda backward butâ€¦) so what then is the price of gas in dollars per gallon if a liter costs 9000 Rp? Or what kind of gas mileage did that Xenia get on Lombok if we drove 370 Km on 30 L of petrol? But let’s not blame that problem on the rupiah exchange rate. No wonder on one cares.

Oh well, we encountered the same problem in Turkey where the exchange rate started at 350,000 Turkish lira per dollar and devalued so rapidly month-by-month that it finally exceeded one million to one. Stephen’s pay there was adjusted monthly for inflation and we had to adjust our calculations all the time.

See how dealing with such things can keep your mind young?